31 October 2008

remembered shores

what frigate bird and pelican can see
far over water they have yet to tell
so we must put up with that oily smell
and other facts that do not well agree
with ease and comfort still by this warm sea
it is so simple to ignore the yell
just keep the eye on that hypnotic swell
thinking that it is right to let things be
in other places the cold presses hard
on other faces and the nights so long
while city noise forces folk to the bars
then there is longing for the warmth of yard
brightness of seas the comfortable song
and in the night the many lovely stars

30 October 2008


there is no question that the night is long
with clouds unbroken in the sky above
we want to give slow-moving time a shove
with urgent purpose we await new song
this calendar that warns of winter's wrong
our hearts demand the springtime morning dove
return of flowers reawoken love
days may be cold but hope is very strong
all that we know is how much each must rue
those painful stories of a different map
on which new facts and new lines would be writ
but now we find that not a thing was true
each noble tale  has turned out to be crap
and we need help to get out of the shit

29 October 2008

so long a time to wait

without hard struggle there is no progress
it is by effort that we make our grace
fear must surrender at last to success

we let the fools and liars acquiesce
in our destruction by granting them space
without hard struggle there is no progress

the preachers tell us that we have to bless
the ones who curse and spit upon each face
fear must surrender at last to success

year after year we only have bad cess
watching as step by step we lose our place
without hard struggle there is no progress

only the evil seem to coalesce
they seem the victors in this ghastly chase
fear must surrender at last to success

it takes no hero's hand to clear the mess
just hope and tears of the whole human race
without hard struggle there is no progress
fear must surrender at last to success

28 October 2008

where we must navigate

this is the point where all our natures meet
you'd think us mad were we to list the tales
so many fools have been lost on this street

one thinks himself part of the great elite
another looks and laughs when the first fails
this is the point when all our natures meet

you hide your heart and wait to see complete
the fullness of the light on all details
so many fools have been lost on this street

that when we speak it seems a huge deceit
a way to suck the wind out of our sails
this is the point where all our natures meet

no proper chance here for any retreat
we do not let the train go off the rails
so many fools have been lost on this street

and in the end there is no one to greet
nor any chance to balance all the scales
this is the point where all our natures meet
so many fools have been lost on this street


truth is best found in small silent places
you find at last the finer goods you seek
and learn that honest things are not unique

but do not come arrayed with airs and graces
honour is not reserved just to the meek
truth is best found in small silent places

love shows herself alive in joyous faces
and happiness in valley not on peak
not by great river but by little creek
truth is best found in small silent places

26 October 2008

this tale we know

no meaning in the noise just empty rage
but meaning in the numbers we can read
a lamentation for the passing age
so much is noted in the angry deed
not one second of silence they concede
although rough bone on bone will harshly grate
they won't surrender to the ones they hate

so little of our temper they can gauge
and not a portion of our urgent need
that forces us to deepest loudest rage
at sight of all their  joyful hateful greed
the product of the nature of their breed
they name this glory and call this their state
they won't surrender to the ones they hate

with such an enemy we can't engage
without an understanding of their creed
more than the lying words upon the page
we cannot trust the man riding the steed
who tells us that like us he has to bleed
and though their pain like ours can become great
they won't surrender to the ones they hate 

they will not quit their places on the stage
nor pay our anger any sort of heed
for that we know slow death's the only wage
and harsh uprooting as with any weed
justice we know we never could exceed
since though we tell our story plain and straight
they won't surrender to the ones they hate

honour restored

each aching slave will see the pirate slain
from recollection of that stinking hold
don't name revenge that last easing of  pain

so many fools who will not see things plain
nor taste of patience that has been served cold
each aching slave will see the pirate slain

year upon year each one piles up the pain
the lone reward is simply growing old
don't name revenge that last easing of pain

a form of passion made to entertain
the ones whose enterprise was manifold
each aching slave will see the pirate slain

but silence will not fill this place again
now that the fallen have at last turned bold
don't name revenge that last easing of pain

all that we are all that our hearts contain
cannot we now declare be bought or sold
each aching slave will see the pirate slain
don't name revenge that last easing of pain

memory of morning

you wake up to the sharp scent of bush tea
before the sun has touched the eastern hill
the clock is independent of your will
and early hours and you do not agree
free education does not come so free
that you can wait till after morning chill
just hurry and don't dare a drop to spill
that's just the way that matters have to be
the voices carried on that early air
from distant places each with their strange word
you had to mark and now cannot forget
but all your duty and your hard won care
won't turn back time or make the case absurd
since age owes youth a large and heavy debt

and here's the latest news

day turns to night and night returns to day
the cycle is the same the actors not
what seems to matter is the blasted play

no one's the winner in the long affray
a little difficult to change the plot
day turns to night and night returns to day

a common fact no matter what we say
the sort of thing that no one has forgot
what seems to matter is the blasted play

the long parade has gone wholly astray
far off the road and moving at a trot
day turns to night and night returns to day

while all the towers are falling back to clay
an entire city's now an empty lot
what seems to matter is the blasted play

the only truth is knowledge of the way
out of the devastation and the rot
day turns to night and night returns to day
what seems to matter is the blasted play

Racism and Poverty

John Maxwell

The people of Haiti are as poor as human beings can be.

According to the statisticians of the World Bank and others who speculate about how many Anglos can dance on the head of a peon, Haiti may either be the second, third or fourth poorest country in the world.

In Haiti’s case, statistics are irrelevant.

 When large numbers of people are reduced to eating dirt – earth, clay – it is impossible to imagine poverty any more absolute, any more desperate, any more inhuman and degrading.

The chairman of the World Bank visited Haiti this past week. This man, Robert Zoellick, is an expert finance-capitalist, a former partner in the investment bankers Goldman Sachs, whose 22,000 ‘traders” last year averaged bonuses of more than $600,000 each.

Goldman Sachs paid out over &18 billion in bonuses to its traders last year, about 50% more than the GDP of Haiti’s 8 million people.

The chairman of Goldman took home more than $70 million and his lieutenants – as Zoellick once was – $40 million or more, each.

It should be clear that someone like Robert Zoellick is likely to be totally bemused by Haiti when his entertainment allowance could probably feed the entire population for a day or two. It is not hard to understand that Mr Zoellick cannot understand why Haiti needs debt relief.

Haiti is now forced by the World Bank and Its bloodsucking siblings like the IMF, to pay more than $1 million a week to satisfy debts incurred by the Duvaliers and the post-Duvalier tyrannies. Haiti must repay this debt to prove its fitness for ‘help’ from the Multilateral Financial Institutions (MFI).

One million dollars a week would feed everybody in Haiti even if only at a very basic level – at least they would not have to eat earth patties. Instead the Haitians export this money to pay the salaries of such as Zoellick

But Zoellick doesn’t see it that way. According to the World Bank’s website the bank is in the business of eradicating poverty. At the rate it does that in Haiti the Bank, I estimate, will be in the poverty eradication business for another 18,000 years.

The reason Haiti is in its present state is pretty simple. Canada, the United States and France, all of whom consider themselves civilised nations, colluded in the overthrow of the democratic government of Haiti four years ago. They did this for several excellent reasons:

• Haiti 200 years ago defeated the world’s then major powers, France (twice) Britain and Spain, to establish its independence and to abolish plantation slavery. This was unforgivable.

• Despite being bombed, strafed and occupied by the United States early in the past century, and despite the American endowment of a tyrannical and brutal Haitian army designed to keep the natives in their place, the Haitians insisted on re-establishing their independence. Having overthrown the Duvaliers and their successors, the Haitians proceeded to elect as president a little black parish priest who had become their hero by defying the forces of evil and tyranny.

• The new president of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide refused to sell out (privatise) the few assets owned by the government (the public utilities mainly);

• Aristide also insisted that France owed Haiti more than $25 billion in repayment of blood money extorted from Haiti in the 19th century, as alleged compensation for France’s loss of its richest colony and to allow Haiti to gain admission to world trade;

• Aristide threatened the hegemony of a largely expatriate ruling class of so-called ‘elites’ whose American connections allowed them to continue the parasitic exploitation and economic strip mining of Haiti following the American occupation.

• Haiti, like Cuba, is believed to have in its exclusive economic zone, huge submarine oil reserves, greater than the present reserves of the United States

• Haiti would make a superb base from which to attack Cuba.

The American attitude to Haiti was historically based on American disapproval of a free black state just off the coast of their slave-based plantation economy. This attitude was  pithily expressed in Thomas Jefferson’s idea that a black man was equivalent to three fifths of a white man. It was  further apotheosized by Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan who expostulated to Wilson: “Imagine! Niggers speaking French!”

The Haitians clearly did not know their place. In February 2004, Mr John McCain’s International Republican Institute, assisted by Secretary of State Colin Powell, USAID and the CIA, kidnapped Aristide and his wife and transported them to the Central African Republic as ‘cargo’ in a plane normally used to ‘render’ terrorists for torture outsourced by the US to Egypt, Morocco and Uzbekistan.

Before Mr Zoellick went to Haiti last week, the World Bank announced that Mr. Zoellick’s visit would “emphasize the Bank's strong support for the country.” Mr. Zoellick added: "Haiti must be given a chance. The international community needs to step up to the challenge and support the efforts of the Haitian government and its people."

“If Robert Zoellick wants to give Haiti a chance, he should start by unconditionally cancelling Haiti’s debt,” says Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. “Instead the World Bank- which was established to fight poverty- continues to insist on debt payments when Haitians are starving to death and literally mired in mud.”

“After four hurricanes in a month and an escalating food crisis it is outrageous that Haiti is being told it must wait six more months for debt relief,” said Neil Watkins, National Coordinator of Jubilee USA Network.

“Haiti’s debt is both onerous and odious”, added Dr. Paul Farmer of Partners In Health. “The payments are literally killing people, as every dollar sent to Washington is a dollar Haiti could spend on healthcare, nutrition and feeding programs, desperately needed infrastructure and clean water. Half of the loans were given to the Duvaliers and other dictatorships, and spent on Presidential luxuries, not development programs for the poor. Mr. Zoellick should step up and support the Haitian government by cancelling the debt now.”

“Unconditional debt cancellation is the first step in addressing the humanitarian crisis in Haiti,” according to Nicole Lee, Executive Director of TransAfrica Forum. “There is also an urgent need for U.S. policy towards Haiti to shift from entrenching the country in future debt to supporting sustainable, domestic solutions for development.”

The above quotations are taken from an appeal by the organisations represented above.

Further comment is superfluous.

Poverty and Globalisation

President Jean Bertrand Aristide, now in enforced exile in South Africa, might be sardonically entertained by a new report just published by the world’s  Club of the Rich, the OECD –Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

This report, titled “Growing Unequal” examines the accelerating trend toward economic inequality in the societies of the world’s richest countries.

The report contains several mind-blowing discoveries which will, no doubt, amaze journalists and policy-makers in the Western hemisphere and keep them entertained for many years.

The major finding is that globalisation and free trade have hurt millions of  people, particularly the poorest.

Another ground-breaking discovery is that “work reduces poverty”.

One of these days Jamaicans and other Caribbean people may decide to find out whether these theses are true and whether if they are, we should have signed on to the new EPA with the European Union.

If our ginnigogs were able and willing to read they might become aware of a phenomenon called the “resource curse’ which appears to condemn developing countries with enormous mineral wealth to misery, war, corruption and destitution.

If our ginnigogs could or would read, they might find it useful to discover whether an acre of land under citrus or pumpkins is not more productive, sustainable and valuable than that same acre destroyed for bauxite.

If our ginnigogs could or would read, they might become aware of the fate of the island of Nauru, ‘discovered’ less than two hundred years ago, mined for phosphate, returning a per capita national income rivaling Saudi Arabia’s two and three decades ago and now to be abandoned because the land has been mined to death and is destined to disappear shortly beneath the waves of global warming.


Softly, softly, catchee monkee

If our ginnigogs were able to read and willing and able to defend the interests of Jamaica and the Jamaican people they might discover that bauxite mining  will, within a relatively short time, contaminate all the water resources of Jamaica, destroy our cultural heritage, wipe out our priceless biological diversity, deprave our landscape and reduce those of us who survive to a state of penury and hopelessness. Goodbye tourism, goodbye farming, welcome hunger, welcome clay patties.

According to the experts if you drop a live lobster into a pot of boiling water the creature will make frenzied efforts to escape. If, on the other hand, you put him in a pot of cold water and bring it slowly to the boil, the lobster will perish without a struggle.

Jamaica, on the atlas, is shaped a bit like a lobster.

Bon appetit.

Copyright © 2008 John Maxwell


25 October 2008

under the same stars

this permitted we have grace to caper
from dusk to dawn as the leaves redly fall
marking the season with a noble ball
each bright dancer bearing amber taper
notes now shining on the golden paper
make our demands seem piteously small
as watchers wonder why we had the gall
to think our hottest wishes more than vapour
now time must move in tandem with the sun
our hearts obey an older slower law
while in their nests the summer birds still wait
far to the south where warmth is never done
but nature rules with equally harsh claw
a younger person wonders at his fate

distant lightning

an echo of the past resolves to pain
no matter what we do none can escape
all stand bedraggled in the autumn rain

who thought to win was first to fall off wain
the furthest off from the finishing tape
an echo of the past resolves to pain

it takes no wisdom to note the hard strain
of those who holding matters in firm shape
all stand bedraggled in the autumn rain

not daring to look up nor to complain
while foolish mouths are all of them agape
an echo of the past resolves to pain

some facts are set out very clear and plain
as both bright angel and dull foolish ape
all stand bedraggled in the autumn rain

we must lament the loss of normal brain
which must explain how we are in this scrape
an echo of the past resolves to pain
all stand bedraggled in the autumn rain

long waiting

at this dark curve of the long mountain road
the signpost tells us just where we must go
those little places we are meant to know
but do not speak of method nor of mode
the yellow finger is a sort of goad
to warn us that our pace is yet too slow
our feet must hasten so we catch the glow
and make most certain that our goods are stowed
not here but soon a true signal will come
to clarify just who must keep the score
and who depart and lose the chance at fame
so much depends on true tone of the drum
not how or where each of us comes ashore
but only that we must accept the blame

23 October 2008

at home the green remains

so many trees in full and golden leaf
this changing season as the days turn cold
birds have gone south and fools have become bold

nights grow too long and sunlight is too brief
you know the story it is often told
so many trees in full and golden leaf

now swiftly falling for time's a hard thief
and eager hoarding the  fast-passing gold
leaves us behind nothing that we can hold
so many trees in full and golden leaf

21 October 2008

one leaden rule

the world is much more complex than you think
tricks that you learn when young turn out to fail
this weight of truth would drive a saint to drink

you've forged a chain of good things link by link
and then find out it's all to no avail
the world is much more complex than you think

your happy moment passes in a blink
it vanishes the second you exhale
this weight of truth would drive a saint to drink

cold winds will find the one uncovered chink
and force their way in just to make you ail
the world is much more complex than you think

so you work hard and idlers get the mink
with all the jewels that are out on sale
this weight of truth would drive a saint to drink

no one at all must be allowed to think
since their good effort will end up quite stale
the world is much more complex than you think
this weight of truth would drive a saint to drink

20 October 2008

peaks that scrape the sky

to fear the mountains that you have not seen
strikes me as beyond odd as plain bizarre
there is no horror that could strike so far
nor any danger that might come between
that place and this you need to find the mean
of calm and order not to let things mar
the proper temper so that at the bar
to make all sober we might intervene
each new adventure has a painful price
in time and effort and we can't recall
the life so spent back to a happy place
but you don't ever want to hear advice
and are too eager to run out and fall
and then return with fresh tears on your face